Iran General NewsIran opens conference on Holocaust

Iran opens conference on Holocaust


New York Times: Iran held a gathering that included Holocaust deniers, discredited scholars and white supremacists from around the world on Monday under the guise of a conference to “debate” the Nazi annihilation of six million Jews. The New York Times

Published: December 12, 2006” />

TEHRAN, Dec. 11 — Iran held a gathering that included Holocaust deniers, discredited scholars and white supremacists from around the world on Monday under the guise of a conference to “debate” the Nazi annihilation of six million Jews.

Among those representing the United States was the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, whose prepared remarks, issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the gas chambers in which millions perished actually did not exist.

Robert Faurisson, an academic from France, said in his speech that the Holocaust was a myth created to justify the occupation of Palestine, meaning the creation of Israel.

That is what Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has frequently claimed, and it was Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statements that inspired the Foreign Ministry to hold the conference. The ministry said 67 people from 30 countries were participating in the two days of meetings.

In a welcoming speech, Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, said the session would provide an opportunity to discuss the Holocaust “away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe.” In several European countries, denial of the Holocaust is a crime.

An accompanying exhibition also denied the Holocaust. One poster with three photographs showed dead bodies and described accounts of their gassing as a myth. Signs pointed to smiling prisoners freed at the end of the war with the label “truth.”

New captions in Persian on other pictures of corpses described them as victims of a typhus epidemic in Europe, not of the Nazi death machine.

Speakers at the conference praised Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments about the Holocaust.

Bendikt Frings, 48, a psychologist from Germany, said he believed that Mr. Ahmadinejad was “an honest, direct man.” He said he had come to the conference to thank the president for what he had initiated.

“We are forbidden to have such a conference in Germany,” he said. “All my childhood, we waited for something like this.”

Frederick Toben, from Australia, said Mr. Ahmadinejad had opened an issue “which is morally and intellectually crippling the Western society.”

“People are imprisoned in Germany for denying the Holocaust,” he added. Mr. Toben said that he was jailed for six months in 1999 for his ideas and that there was a court order in Germany to arrest him if he again spoke against the Holocaust.

Mr. Duke’s speech argued that inventions about what happened to Europe’s Jews were part of a plot. He said, “Depicting Jews as the overwhelming victims of the Holocaust gave the moral high ground to the Allies as victors of the war and allowed Jews to establish a state on the occupied land of Palestine.”

There were also members of anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects in attendance. One Jewish participant in a long black coat and hat wore a badge saying: “A Jew, not a Zionist.”

A 2004 book by an American author, Michael Collins Piper, “The New Jerusalem: Zionist Power in America,” was on sale for $20.

It was not clear how the speakers were assembled. The institute’s Web site invited scholars and researchers to submit their papers in advance. The Foreign Ministry provided little information about the participants, saying that it feared they would be prosecuted by their countries.

The organizers said they planned for “both sides” to be heard, but none of the speeches collected in the ministry’s book or any of the exhibitions spoke of the reality of the Nazi killing. A CD with the stories of 12 Holocaust survivors was said to be available.

The event has sparked outrage in the West.

Germany summoned the Iranian chargé d’affaires to express its anger, and the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, has condemned the conference.

Last summer, Iran created a contest for cartoons about the Holocaust in reaction to the controversy over Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad.

The Iranian Jewish community reacted angrily to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments last year and said his words had spread fear among them.

“We consider the Holocaust as a fact and a disgrace for humanity,” the head of the community, Haround Yashayai, said Monday.

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